Now that the final game of a crazy weekend of college hockey can be played, we know the sixteen teams that will be competing in this year's NCAA tournament. Here's a look at the final Pairwise Rankings that will be used to determine the field:
Which gives us a tournament field that looks like this:
1. Minnesota-(At-large bid)*
2. Boston College-(At-large bid)
3. Union (ECAC autobid)
4. Wisconsin (Big Ten autobid)
5. Ferris State (At-large bid)
6. Quinnipiac (At-large bid)
7. UMass-Lowell (Hockey East autobid)
8. Notre Dame-(At-large bid)
9. St. Cloud State-(At-large bid)
10. Minnesota State (WCHA autobid)
11. Providence (At-large bid)
12. Colgate (At-large bid)
13. Vermont (At-large bid)
14. North Dakota (At-large bid)
15. Denver- (NCHC autobid)
16. Robert Morris- (Atlantic Hockey autobid)
*Host of West Regional
That part of the equation isn't up for debate. Now for the part that is more skill than science: cramming those 16 teams into four brackets and making everything follow as many of the NCAA's rules and preferences as possible.
West Regional in St. Paul, Minnesota:
1. Minnesota(1) vs. 4 Robert Morris(16)
2. Notre Dame(8) vs. 3. St. Cloud State(9)
This regional worked out quite swimmingly for the NCAA. Host Minnesota locked up the top overall seed prior to conference tournament weekend, and will draw the weakest team in the tournament as their reward.
The bottom half of the bracket works out pretty well too, with # 8 and #9 not causing any intra-conference conflicts, and the added bonus of local team St. Cloud State helping boost attendance a little bit. St. Cloud didn't travel in enormous numbers the last time they played in the NCAA tournament at the XCel Center. The high ticket prices were prohibitive for many. But this time around, St. Cloud didn't play in a conference tournament the weekend prior, which may make the hit to the wallet a little more tolerable for St. Cloud fans.
Midwest Regional in Cincinnati, Ohio:
1. Wisconsin(4) vs. 4. North Dakota(14)
2. Ferris State(5) vs. 3. Colgate(12)
Here's the only controversy in a rather straight-forward NCAA field. By straight bracket integrity, Wisconsin would be facing off against #13 Vermont. But switching Vermont and North Dakota keeps Vermont from having to fly, and at four and a half hours drive time, isn't impossible for their fans to make it to Bridgeport. Wisconsin technically gets a lesser four seed, but I'm not sure how many of their fans will feel that way. Ironically, North Dakota is only in the field because Wisconsin was able to pull out a come-from-behind overtime victory in the Big Ten title game.
East Regional in Bridgeport, Connecticut:
1 Union(3) . vs. 4. Vermont(13)
2. Quinnipiac(6) vs. 3. Providence(11)
Same as above. The only switch I'm making is Vermont/North Dakota.
Northeast Regional in Worcester, Massachusetts:
1. Boston College(2) vs. 4. Denver (15)
2. UMass-Lowell(7) vs. 3. Minnesota State(10)
Once again, straight forward in terms of bracket integrity. There's no way to move Minnesota State to the XCel Center when they share a seed band with fellow local St. Cloud State. I'm betting Boston College doesn't feel like they're drawing the 23rd team in the Pairwise.